During a Newsroom Summit session on Audience Engagement, Davidovitz described how The Times of Israel, launched in January 2012, engages with its audience by offering a mixture of content by a small staff of professional journalists and by bloggers.
He says anybody can ask to open a blog, and once approved, they can begin to publish posts, which are not edited. These are published as part of Times of Israel and also published on the person’s own page as well as on a list of “latest posts” for the website.
Davidovitz stresses that everything should be designed to make it extremely easy for users to write and publish blog posts.
“Everything has to be very, very simple,” he says.
Davidovitz says The Times of Israel environment offers bloggers a marketplace of ideas that compete among themselves. In addition, all posts have an equal chance of reaching a large audience because they are presented as “latest posts” as well as via social media. Furthermore, posts can succeed by being chosen by the crowd (popularity), or they can be chosen by the editors for featured sections.
However, Davidovitz says what is more important is why the system works for the blogger, and here he points to five factors:
- They are part of a journalistic platform.
- They have the chance of their post getting picked by the editors.
- They have a much better chance of succeeding with the crowds (than through social media).
- Their activity is visible throughout the site.
- The experience is fun for them, like a game.
As for why content from bloggers works for The Times of Israel, Davidovitz points to these factors:
- Journalistic long tail – hundreds of writers with small communities around them.
- Some of the bloggers will bring substantial traffic.
- Each blogger is a marketing agent: Every article is a homepage.
- Some of the content is excellent.
- It helps create a thriving community.
When you engage with users you must remember they don’t work for you – so you need to make it a game they enjoy, Davidovitz says. “If their motivation is as strong as your motivation, it will succeed,” he adds.